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The monogamy files 

Rules differ from couple to couple, so keep an open mind. Plus: Savage LoveCast #161

Q I am a happily married, happily non-monogamous male. We are not wild swinger types. For us it's more about the fact that monogamy does not work than about nailing everything that walks by. Anyway, I have encountered an odd situation a few times now, and again last night, where I'll be flirting with a potential fling and she knows I'm married and she's very interested. But when she finds out my marriage is non-monogamous, she suddenly backs out. Case in point, a co-worker: We have been flirting since I started my new job a few months ago. Today she asked me what my wife would do if she found out I was sneaking around on her. Good time to make a full disclosure! But when I told her my situation, that was the end of our flirtation.

Any idea why women find the idea of cheating with me OK, but once they find out I have a free go of things, they walk? —No Figuring Women

A This woman didn't find the idea of cheating with you "OK," NFW, she wanted to fuck you because you're married and presumably monogamous. Try to look at it from her perspective: When she thought you were willing to cheat on your wife to be with her, NFW, that meant you found her so attractive, so utterly irresistible, that you would break your marriage vows and risk everything to get into her pants. Sleeping with her with your wife's permission? Meh, where's the ego boost in that?

Q I am a 40ish married straight woman living in New York. I have been happily married in a monogamous relationship for 11 years. My husband and I met when we were in our early 20s. After listening to all of the Savage Lovecasts together, we started to talk about the idea of "some degree of openness," as you put it.

In the past year, I have had a crush on a co-worker. My husband is OK with me having something on the side with this co-worker. This co-worker is single (last I heard) and 17 years younger (yikes!) and he knows I am married. We had a great working relationship while we were assigned to a project together, but now he's in another department.

My question is, how to go from here? After having a few good talks with my husband, I am excited about this idea and terrified. I'm having a private lunch with my co-worker soon. This is fine with my husband. What can you tell me to calm me the hell down and not be so stressed? After being conditioned my whole life that monogamy is the only way to go, I am having a hard time shifting! —Newly Open Couple Lacks Understanding & Education

A Have that lunch, and tell your co-worker/crush that you and the husband are just beginning to explore the idea of openness. For all you know now, your much-younger co-worker may not be interested in being your piece on the side. If it turns out that he is interested, take things very, very slowly and keep your husband fully informed. But even if I could relieve you of your stress and anxiety with a few words, NOCLUE, I wouldn't. You should be anxious and stressed out; it's appropriate to be anxious and stressed out. Your nervousness is prompting you to take things slowly and to be careful and conscientious about your husband's feelings. If this works out---for you, for your co-worker, for your husband---it will be in large part thanks to the stress, NOCLUE, not despite it. Enjoy.

Q I am in a strange situation. I work in the corporate sector in marketing and sales. It is a high-stress, fast-paced job, and everyone has a short fuse. I have a co-worker who is losing business to a competitor who happens to be gay. In her fits of anger, she keeps calling him a faggot. I hate it. The thing is, I am not gay. And if anyone in our office is, they are in the closet. She has used the word in front of other co-workers and even our boss, and no one seems to be bothered.

I am torn about what I should do. I am black, and if she was using the word "nigger," I would call her on it and raise issue with our HR department. Can I file a complaint on behalf of a group I do not belong to?

If she found out I complained, she would see it as a threat to her own job, which could lead to a decidedly hostile workplace. But if it was a racial slur, I would not let that deter me. I want to do the right thing. How would you handle the situation? --Not My Problem?

A If someone at my office were tossing the word "nigger" around, NMP, I would lodge a complaint. I would resent the assumption on my co-worker's part that since I'm white she can use racist speech in my presence, because, hey, all us white people are racist POS, right? And I would complain because a workplace that tolerates racist remarks is a workplace that tolerates homophobic remarks.

If people are using "nigger" when there aren't any black people in the room, they're doubtless using "faggot" when there aren't any gay people in the room. And vice versa. Have a word with HR.

Q I have a new co-worker, a young man who is gay and quite effeminate. He's slim, wears makeup, has boyish/feminine features and has done some modelling work as a woman. He said in a lunchroom discussion today that he prefers to wear women's clothes. He said he had worn women's clothes at a previous workplace, and no one had been offended. I suggested he talk to HR to protect his job before coming to work dressed in women's clothing. Good advice or should I just mind my own business?

One co-worker suggested that he work up to it, while another said he should just do it and let the chips fall where they may. The question of what restroom he should use when dressed as a woman came up. I'm not 100 percent comfortable sharing the ladies' room with him. Though I am certain most of the men won't be comfortable sharing the men's room with him either.

Do you have any suggestions on how to handle situations where I might find myself in the same restroom as my newest co-worker? —She Knows It's Really Trivial

A If your co-worker identifies as female, she should use the women’s room. If he identifies as male, he should use the men’s room. And seeing as he’s using the men’s room now---despite his wearing makeup and being openly gay---I don’t see how the addition of a dress should change things for his male co-workers. And from the way you describe that lunchroom conversation, SKIRT, it sounds like your effeminate new co-worker has at least some support at work---but yes, he should have a talk with HR.

As for “handl[ing] situations” where you find yourself in the same restroom with your newest co-worker, SKIRT, unless you routinely offer to zip up your co-workers or wipe their asses for them, I don’t see how his presence---or his attire or the particular brand of genitalia tucked into his panties---really impacts you at all.

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